Lee Jae-yong, Samsung’s Vice President and the next in line for the president’s chair, was arrested on 17 September 2017, facing the accusation of bribery. According to New York Times, he was arrested not long after the Seoul Central District Court released arrest warrant for him. The news quickly made round in tech community, and put spotlight on South Korea’s eternal efforts to bust tradition of collusion between government officials and conglomerate families for political or financial favors.
Immediately after the warrant was issued, Lee Jae-yong was escorted to a jail outside the city of Seoul. He is currently facing the charges of bribery and other white collar crimes, and potentially facing long sentences.
Multiple Accusations against Lee jae-yong
Lee Jae-yong was captured after the court found evidences that he paid huge amount of bribes to Choi Soon-il, a top executive staff and the confidante of President Park Geun-hye. Mr. Lee had reportedly paid $36 million to Mr. Choi in 2015, in order to secure the full corporate control after Samsung’s affiliate merger. Mr. Lee wanted to ask for political support in order to gain leverage in his position in the company, resulting in him gaining control and vice chairman position in the company. However, bribery is not the only accusation that landed on Mr. Lee.
Alongside bribery, the charge against Mr. Lee is likely to result in increased serving time. Further investigation had revealed his roles in various other white collar crimes, such as embezzlement, illegal property transfer in foreign countries, and complimentary hearing perjury. Coincidentally, shady involvement in politics is not Mr. Lee’s first brush with law. In 2016, his name was snared in a huge corruption scandal that ended in the impeachment of Park Geun-hye.
While Lee Jae-yong is the first conglomerate that has actually been arrested our of such charges, South Korean people are still waiting to see whether he would actually get what he deserve in the eyes of law.
What lee’s Capture Means for Samsung Power
As one of technology giants from Asia, Samsung has huge bargain power. In South Korea, Samsung dominates one-fourth of all capital values of all South Korean corporation. The huge market power makes Samsung corporate hold strong positions, and even have potential power to enlist support from powerful political figures. The capture of Mr. Lee has caused intense reactions from public, since he is the first conglomerate from such powerful corporation that was arrested for white collar crime. This may signify Korea’s first serious crack on what is commonly known as chaebol, or white collar crime done by members of conglomerate families.
With the huge demand of proper prosecution from public, main prosecutor Park Young-soo promises that he will ensure this case is properly handled. Meanwhile, Samsung only released short statement about willing to cooperate with the court during the trial process, but demanded that the trial is done in transparent way. However, since Mr. Lee’s leadership has been proven not as effective as his father, there is still much to see on how Samsung will perform in the market during the possibly turbulent period.